Check out the complete Cheer Competition Guide For Coaches! Though the “Is cheerleading a sport?” debate rages on, those in the cheerleading community know no bounds to their competitive side. Each year, hundreds of cheerleading competitions are held around the world. These competitions feature some of the most talented young athletes in world, and some of the most awe-inspiring stunts that you’ll ever see live, short of going to a Cirque du Soleil show. Competitive cheerleading is an exciting world that continues to grow each year, from the first competitions in the 1980s to today’s competitions that feature age groups starting as young as five years old and even extend to special needs cheerleading teams. Competitive cheerleading has gained some publicity lately as more and more organizations recognize the dangers involved with extreme tumbling and human stunting. As competitive cheerleading gains more speed, the skill levels only become further advanced and more dangerous. However, properly trained squads can pull off routines packed with stunts, tumbling, dancing and cheering with a smile. So what is all the fuss about, and should YOUR squad compete? Competitive cheerleading is done for many of the same reasons other sports have competitions: trophies, recognition, scholarships, honors, prestige. But it is also more than that. Cheerleaders compete for the excitement. They compete because they have worked hard developing, learning and perfecting a routine. They compete because seeing the crowd react to them is a reward in itself. Before deciding if your squad is ready for the pressure and demands of competitions, consider these questions: Does Your Squad Have The Skills? There are many different levels of cheerleading competitions, and a squad needs to carefully choose a competition that will allow them to compete with other squads at their level. A squad should evaluate its size, experience and dynamics. Are there several experienced, returning squad members or are most of the girls new to the team? Have the girls on the squad known and worked with each other for a long time, or are they still working on building respect and trust? Do You Have The Time To Prep? A competition routine is not the same as your homecoming or half time routines. A competition routine has to be thoroughly planned, coordinated and practiced – in addition to any of your regular practices. Many squads even hire a choreographer to help them prepare for competitions. Typically, the cheer competition season lasts for the entire beginning of the calendar year, but training for competitions can start as early as the summer before the season. Each squad needs to evaluate their own regular season schedule and any community commitments before signing up for competition responsibilities. Do You Have The Support? Participating in cheerleading competitions not only requires some of your budget, but also support from your school or organization and community. If you didn’t plan a budget for competitions during your fundraising activities, chances are it will be a struggle for you to come up with all the funds in time. Some of the costs that a squad will need to cover in their competition budget include: New Uniforms. Most squads order special cheerleading uniforms for competitions, along with new cheer shoes and travel gear. Not to mention accessories and makeup. Using new uniforms and gear ensures that a squad will look their absolute best on the floor. Competition Fees. A squad’s captain or coach need to do their research and determine what the up front costs for each competition will be. Depending on the competition, it could be a small sum per squad member, or a couple thousand dollars for a team. Don’t forget to factor in travel and accommodation expenses! Is It Worth The Risk? As with any stunting, there is risk involved. If your squad wants to win a competition, they will have to push themselves emotionally and physically to improve and master their skills. Increasing the level of difficulty in a routine will mean more complicated stunts and tumbling. Only properly trained professionals should be working with squads to condition them for performance. To prevent injuries, your squad should consult safety publications, rules and tips from nationally recognized cheerleading organizations such as The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators and the National Cheer Safety Foundation.